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Demystifying the Tone Curve controls

From: Lightroom 4 Essentials: 02 Enhancing Photos with the Develop Module

Video: Demystifying the Tone Curve controls

The Tone Curve panel gives us another way to modify the color and tone of our photographs whether, to correct or enhance or just apply a creative effect. Let's take a look at how we can work with the Tone Curve panel. You'll notice I have this demo grayscale file open. I find it helpful to create grayscale files whenever there's a new control or a new panel that I don't understand in Lightroom, to create that file and then bring it into Lightroom and make changes, to kind of that teach myself how do these controls actually work? Let's take a look at how they work while working on this file.

Demystifying the Tone Curve controls

The Tone Curve panel gives us another way to modify the color and tone of our photographs whether, to correct or enhance or just apply a creative effect. Let's take a look at how we can work with the Tone Curve panel. You'll notice I have this demo grayscale file open. I find it helpful to create grayscale files whenever there's a new control or a new panel that I don't understand in Lightroom, to create that file and then bring it into Lightroom and make changes, to kind of that teach myself how do these controls actually work? Let's take a look at how they work while working on this file.

When I hover over this Curve window, you'll notice that different areas of this curve are highlighted. You may also notice that down below one of these controls will be illuminated. Here I am in the shadows, the darker side of the grayscale, and then as I move up, the darks, the lights, and then the highlights. In this area you also notice the cursor changes. Well, if I move over a specific part of the image, I can click and drag up or down just to the limits of that grayed-out or highlighted area. So what's the deal with that? What's that all about? Well, what this allows you to do is to make adjustments that aren't incredibly drastic.

They're relatively limited to that area. Now it gets a little complicated when you mix, say, another adjustment and then perhaps another, and you can see how all of these curves are connected. Yet primarily, it's limited to these highlighted areas. In other words, you can make adjustments without doing too much damage. All right! Well, what about resetting things? You can reset these controls by double- clicking them, just like we can in other panels. Now you'll notice that we have these four quadrants and these dividers here. What are those? Well, if we make an adjustment, say, to highlights, we can have that adjustment have a broader effect by clicking and dragging and pulling this over.

Notice now much more of the image is white than was before. So now my highlight quadrant, well, it's huge, and it's huge because I changed it by moving this divider here. Double-click those and you can reset those as well. All right! One more thing to talk about here with this curve, and that is the Targeted Adjustment tool. Click on the Targeted Adjustment tool, top-left corner, hover over the image, and now all of a sudden you can see it's highlighting the different areas of your image. Now this is pretty cool because it allows you to just visually make changes.

It takes the guesswork out of are these my darks or my shadows? Just position over that area, click and drag up or down and make a change. All right! Well, what else can we do with the Tone Curve? Well, we can also go to what's called the Point Curve. This is where things get really interesting. In the Point Curve, we now have curves in this latest version of Lightroom which are very similar to Photoshop. Take a look. I can click on this curve and drag up and keep dragging and keep dragging and keep dragging.

I can make really drastic and dramatic adjustments. I can also add multiple points to my curve. And I can click to add these points so that I can have precise control over different parts of the curve. And you can see I am doing that as I am making adjustments here. Now here I am making really drastic and dramatic adjustments. So what's interesting about this is we now have a little bit more power and also precision with this dialog. To remove points, click and drag those to the right or the left, and you can just pull those straight off of this curve line here. All right! We also have a Targeted Adjustment tool.

Click on it, position over the image, you notice that it tracks with that curve line there. We can see where that is if you look at the curve in the panel. Drag up or down, set another point, and you can move through your image this way making adjustments as needed. The other thing that's powerful about this is if we have highlights which we can't recover very well, we can use this top highlight point and bring that down. This can save the day with certain photographs. We can do the same thing with shadows. We can bring that shadow point, if we click all the way on it--I missed it there. Let me grab it. Click all the way on that, we can drag that up or deepen it for that matter.

The other thing that we can do is we can actually get to our three different color channels. Click on the Channel Picker and you have Red, Green, and Blue options. Perhaps you know that if you go to the Red channel and click and drag up, the image becomes more red. Drag in the opposite direction and it's cyan. So we can change the color and tone of our image. We can also go to the Green channel. That's green/magenta, green one way, magenta the other, and then blue/yellow and blue one way and then yellow the other way.

This can help us come up with creative effects, where we can correct our images in interesting ways, and these different curve controls, well, they just give us access to making changes in a new way. There isn't necessarily one approach which is best, meaning should I use the Point Curve versus this curve? Well, of course, it depends on what you want to accomplish. So in the next few movies, let's take a look at how we can modify a few images using the Tone Curve panel.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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  1. 2m 1s
    1. Welcome
      1m 17s
    2. Using the exercise files
      44s
  2. 22m 4s
    1. Develop module overview and essential shortcuts
      4m 13s
    2. Panel navigation tips
      4m 53s
    3. Using the Develop module presets
      3m 32s
    4. Creating your own presets
      4m 1s
    5. Using the Snapshot and History panels
      3m 40s
    6. Working with the tool strip
      1m 45s
  3. 15m 20s
    1. Working with legacy Lightroom files
      6m 53s
    2. Viewing the before and after
      4m 29s
    3. Comparing and surveying images
      3m 58s
  4. 19m 42s
    1. Understanding white balance and color temperature
      2m 43s
    2. Using the White Balance Selector tool
      4m 22s
    3. Correcting white balance with a color checker
      3m 52s
    4. Working with white balance presets and fine-tuning white balance
      4m 24s
    5. Color correcting multiple images at once
      2m 42s
    6. Creativity and white balance
      1m 39s
  5. 23m 5s
    1. Getting familiar with the tone controls
      3m 19s
    2. Deconstructing the tone controls
      5m 39s
    3. Using the tone controls to enhance photographs
      5m 28s
    4. Correcting clipping with the tone controls
      4m 53s
    5. Synchronizing tonal adjustments with multiple images
      3m 46s
  6. 22m 31s
    1. Understanding vibrance and saturation
      5m 6s
    2. Working with vibrance and saturation
      5m 38s
    3. Color creativity with temperature, vibrance, and saturation
      3m 19s
    4. Understanding clarity
      2m 34s
    5. Using clarity in collaboration with vibrance and saturation
      5m 54s
  7. 10m 37s
    1. Basic panel workflow
      3m 38s
    2. Using Auto Tone
      1m 42s
    3. Workflow considerations
      5m 17s
  8. 18m 27s
    1. Cropping
      3m 29s
    2. Changing the crop aspect ratio
      1m 47s
    3. Straightening with the Crop tool
      2m 49s
    4. Working with the crop overlay
      3m 4s
    5. Crop creativity and orientation
      2m 36s
    6. Synchronizing crop settings
      2m 36s
    7. Exploring how to improve the composition of your photographs
      2m 6s
  9. 15m 55s
    1. Retouching with the Spot Removal tool
      8m 26s
    2. The Spot Removal tool: Clone versus Heal
      4m 56s
    3. Fixing red-eye
      2m 33s
  10. 16m 43s
    1. Introducing the Graduated Filter
      5m 14s
    2. Darkening the sky with the Graduated Filter
      6m 10s
    3. Enhancing a sunrise with the Graduated Filter
      5m 19s
  11. 45m 51s
    1. Adjustment Brush overview
      7m 45s
    2. Using Auto Mask
      5m 55s
    3. Burning and dodging a black-and-white image
      6m 44s
    4. Reducing noise
      5m 40s
    5. Minimizing moiré patterns
      3m 18s
    6. Painting in localized sharpening
      2m 14s
    7. Improving the eyes
      4m 6s
    8. Dimishing a distracting highlight
      3m 42s
    9. The Adjustment Brush and Basic panel workflow
      6m 27s
  12. 15m 38s
    1. Demystifying the Tone Curve controls
      5m 5s
    2. Using the tone curve to correct exposure
      2m 16s
    3. Changing tone and color with the the point tone curve
      3m 39s
    4. Making creative RGB adjustments
      4m 38s
  13. 13m 36s
    1. Understanding the HSL controls
      4m 4s
    2. Using the HSL Target Adjustment tool
      1m 40s
    3. Brightening tones with HSL
      3m 21s
    4. Using HSL to bring out warm and cool tones
      1m 47s
    5. Creative color with HSL
      2m 44s
  14. 36m 35s
    1. Introducing black-and-white conversion
      2m 38s
    2. Converting to black and white
      2m 16s
    3. Modifying black-and-white tones with the Grayscale panel
      5m 26s
    4. Enhancing black-and-white images with the Adjustment Brush
      9m 4s
    5. Using presets to convert to black and white
      5m 13s
    6. Black-and-white workflow with virtual copies
      5m 29s
    7. Black-and-white images and collections
      4m 22s
    8. Creating better black-and-white photographs
      2m 7s
  15. 14m 2s
    1. Split-toning essentials
      3m 34s
    2. Advanced split-toning tips
      2m 44s
    3. Split toning a color image
      3m 5s
    4. Split toning to create a sepia-tone effect
      2m 22s
    5. Using split toning to enhance a sunrise
      2m 17s
  16. 12m 21s
    1. Introducing noise reduction
      5m 10s
    2. Understanding sharpening
      5m 2s
    3. Sharpening workflow
      2m 9s
  17. 13m 35s
    1. Using the Lens Correction controls
      1m 56s
    2. Correcting distortion
      2m 45s
    3. Making subtle adjustments to composition and tone
      4m 10s
    4. Removing fish-eye distortion
      3m 18s
    5. Removing chromatic aberration
      1m 26s
  18. 12m 55s
    1. Adding and correcting vignettes
      2m 24s
    2. Using the Post-Crop controls
      4m 5s
    3. Adding a post-crop vignette
      4m 26s
    4. Working with film grain
      2m 0s
  19. 5m 34s
    1. Understanding camera calibration in Lightroom
      3m 20s
    2. Creative color with camera calibration
      2m 14s
  20. 21s
    1. Goodbye
      21s

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